2. Official: Enough Material Missing From Russia to Build a Nuke
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In his first public appearance as director of the CIA, Porter Goss gave a chilling assessment of the dangers posed by nuclear material that is missing from nuclear storage sites in Russia.
Goss and FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the international threats against the United States.
Responding to a question from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., about materials missing from Russian nuclear facilities, Goss said: "There is sufficient material unaccounted for, so that it would be possible for those with know-how to construct a nuclear weapon."
Goss said he could not assure the American people that the missing nuclear material had not found its way into terrorists' hands.
A former top official at the Department of Energy told ABC News that Goss's statement understated the threat. There could be enough missing material in the Russian inventory to make hundreds or thousands of nuclear weapons, but no one -- neither the Russians nor Western intelligence agencies -- knows for sure, the former official said.
There is no way to determine the quantity of missing material in Russia, the source said, because neither the Russian government nor the Soviets before them ever adopted a "mass balance" inventory system that tracks how much nuclear material is produced and where it ends up being used. The U.S. government adopted a mass-balance inventory system in the 1960s, the source said.
Mueller also confirmed new intelligence which suggests al Qaeda is trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
"I am also very concerned with the growing body of sensitive reporting that continues to show al Qaeda's clear intention to obtain and ultimately use some form of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-energy explosives," he said.
New Global Terrorism Threat
During his testimony, Goss said the war in Iraq has created a new threat, which may pose an international danger for years to come.
"Those jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism," said Goss. "They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks."
Counterterrorism analysts believe, if history is a guide, Goss is right.
"Osama bin Laden is a result of the jihad in Afghanistan," said former FBI counterterrorism chief Harry "Skip" Brandon. "We're going to see him or people like him in years to come. They're being trained in Iraq today. I look at early Afghanistan -- a lot of people refer to it as 'test-tube jihad.' The people that did make it out of Afghanistan spread throughout the region, and they are coming back to haunt us now. We'll see that again."
Undetected Domestic Sleeper Cells
Mueller said that while the FBI is monitoring suspected terrorists in the United States, he cannot rule out that there are sleeper terrorist cells in the country that have gone undetected.
"Finding them is the top priority for the FBI, but it is also one of our most difficult challenges," he said.
U.S. officials acknowledge their grim conclusions are alarming but say they are based on real intelligence they see every day. The quality of that intelligence, however, remains in question.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first nuclear detonation at Alamogordo, N.M., as well as the first use of nuclear weapons in war. These events demonstrated man's ability to increase the explosive energy released by a device of given size and weight by a factor of a million and man's willingness to use this vast increase in energy released for violence.
If there is a cause to celebrate, it is the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used again in war in the 60 years since their use over Japan, even though more than 100 wars were fought with conventional weapons in this period. But since 1945, principally under the drive of the Cold War, the ``civilized'' nations accumulated a peak of some 70,000 nuclear weapons, with an explosive energy averaging about 20 times that of each of the two weapons exploded over Japan, which together killed about a quarter of a million people, comparable to the number killed by the recent tsunami.
Today, the world still has a total stockpile of approximately 30,000 nuclear weapons, of which about 10,000 are held by the United States. People have a clear right to ask what purpose -- after 60 years of non-use -- all these nuclear weapons are to serve. During the Cold War, we knew the answer to that question: Since the United States had no technical way to prevent the Soviets from delivering nuclear weapons to the United States homeland, there was no choice but to ``deter'' such an event by amassing our own weapons. Therefore, had the Soviets actually mounted a nuclear attack, they would have suffered unacceptable damage to their homeland and would fail in attaining whatever objective their attack had.
Conversely, the Soviets also had no other recourse in response to our weapons than to build up their deterrent forces. Deterrence worked. But today, 14 years after the end of the Cold War, why are there still so many nuclear weapons? Why are many of them still on hair-trigger alert? And above all, what are the risks inherent in these enormous stockpiles of nuclear weapons and of the materials needed to make them?
Representatives of the Bush administration and congressional actions have declared that U.S. policy is to retain the minimum number of nuclear weapons ``consistent with the national security.'' What does this mean, in particular if possession of nuclear weapons in itself implies a multitude of serious dangers? Why is the administration searching for new missions for nuclear weapons when the United States is the unquestioned leader in conventional, non-nuclear weapons?
Here are the nuclear weapons risks the United States faces today:
ï¿½ Accidental or unauthorized release of nuclear weapons as a result of a ``mad colonel'' ordering a nuclear strike on his own authority, or wrong information indicating a pending attack, triggering a launch of nuclear warheads.
ï¿½ Future worsening of U.S.-Russia relations, again resulting in a nuclear stand-off.
ï¿½ The use of nuclear weapons in a regional conflict, for example between India and Pakistan, which can then spread to other countries.
ï¿½ The proliferation of nuclear weapons to states not currently possessing them, resulting in a situation increasingly difficult to manage.
ï¿½ The acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists, and the use of such weapons against a U.S. city.
These risks have received scant attention by the public and the media, having been overshadowed by recent events. But these risks exist, and the dangers have grown over time.
Risk of terrorism
In particular, the risk of nuclear terrorism is very real. A suicidal terrorist who has been led to believe that life in heaven is better than life on Earth cannot be ``deterred'' by our weapons. William Perry, a former secretary of defense, judged that there is at least a 50 percent chance that before the end of this decade, a nuclear detonation initiated by terrorists will occur in the United States. Should this occur in a city, deaths will be in the many hundreds of thousands, compared with the 3,000 who died on Sept. 11.
Actions by the U.S. government to forestall delivery of a nuclear weapon to the U.S. homeland have been wildly unbalanced. We spend huge sums on ballistic-missile defense (about $10 billion this fiscal year), but no terrorist can possibly launch a ballistic missile; deliberate ballistic-missile attacks by nation states are likely to be deterred by the threat of retaliation with just a few nuclear weapons. We are dedicating far less effort to close much more likely routes toward causing a nuclear detonation in the United States, in particular by nuclear terrorists. This unbalance must be redressed, and the total resources focused on reducing realistic threats of nuclear weapons must be increased.
Terrorists would find it exceedingly difficult to produce, by themselves, the critical materials -- plutonium or highly enriched uranium -- that are absolutely essential for making any nuclear weapon. But the existing stockpiles of these materials in the world -- mostly held by the United States and Russia -- can make more than 100,000 weapons. While laudable progress has been made to improve the security at some of the poorly guarded facilities housing these materials in Russia through joint U.S.-Russian efforts, much more must be done. Bureaucratic obstacles, some erected by the United States, have greatly slowed progress. Presidents Bush and Putin agreed several years ago to destroy 34 tons of their excess plutonium stockpiles, but nothing has been started because of disagreements about such items as liability in case of accident, access to facilities and the like.
We must do better. Here are practical steps that should be taken:
ï¿½ The number of U.S. nuclear weapons should be reduced to the few hundreds -- sufficient for deterrence.
ï¿½ The stockpiles of nuclear-weapon materials should be shrunk as rapidly as technically feasible, and their security should be improved worldwide through increased resources and greater cooperation.
ï¿½ The nuclear weapons still deployed should be taken off hair-trigger alert.
ï¿½ Security of interstate shipping -- containers, trucks, cars -- should be greatly improved using available technical tools.
The knowledge of how to make simple weapons is available worldwide, so we must redirect our resources at the most likely threats -- to stop delivery of nuclear weapons against the United States, and above all to diminish the motivation for such attacks.
The international community has long ignored the activities of a certain network of black-market arms dealers. As a result, extremely dangerous missiles have fallen into the wrong hands.
The large weapons stockpiles left to rust after the end of the Cold War fed an illegal arms trade network spanning Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to supply weapons to warring factions in the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Africa. The dealers have disregarded UN sanctions and armed anyone who had cash.
Shadowy arms trading companies were established in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. A retired Russian colonel, who was once an official arms dealer for Russia's arms trade monopoly and afterward went into business for himself, explained that the network uses corrupt military and government officials to connect potential buyers with Cold War weaponry. Fake end-user certificates are cooked up, phony companies are established, and everything is for sale, including experienced military personnel to operate the purchased systems.
Authorities in the East and West have occasionally indicted individual traffickers, but they have done virtually nothing to dismantle the network. Narcotics and endangered species have gotten more funds and attention, perhaps because the arms smuggling network has often done the dirty jobs governments and secret services want done. They supplied fighters in the former Yugoslavia, rebels in Sudan and Kurds in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And if Africa is teeming with weapons and mercenaries, that's Africa's problem.
Western intelligence services have used the network's channels to steal secret Soviet-made weapons. Sometimes they were caught, as in 2000 when a Canadian company attempted to buy five secret high-speed Shkval torpedoes in Kyrgyzstan through an East European middleman. Even the integration of Eastern Europe into NATO and the EU has not stopped the illegal arms trade.
After the Orange Revolution led to regime change in Ukraine, it was disclosed that some 20 Kh-55 strategic cruise missiles were surreptitiously delivered to Iran and China. Ukraine inherited 578 Soviet Kh-55 missiles with 200-kiloton nuclear warheads. The weapons should have been sent to Russia under the provisions of the U.S.-Russian START I nuclear disarmament treaty, which Ukraine also ratified. A number of Russian-Ukrainian contracts were signed but at least 20 missiles were diverted from their destination -- thanks to corrupt officials -- and wound up in Iran.
Russian arms trader Oleg Orlov was apparently involved in the scheme. Orlov was accused by the UN Security Council in 2001 of selling illegal weapons to rebels in Angola. Last July, Orlov was arrested in the Czech Republic, one of the important centers of the illegal arms trade. As is typical for such deals, Orlov and his partners are suspected of providing the Iranians with maintenance equipment and hired-gun technicians to service the Kh-55 missiles.
The Kh-55 has a range of up to 3,000 kilometers and flies at a low altitude. Its onboard radar scans the terrain, and an onboard computer compares the data with a digital map to achieve incredible precision. Special satellites produce digital maps for the missile.
Last month, it became public that Russia and Iran had signed a contract to launch a communication satellite and "other additional satellites." A Ukrainian general told me that the only purpose of the "additional satellites" Russia has agreed to launch is to make digital maps for the Kh-55 and provide the real-time guidance essential when the cruise missile flies over water.
The Kh-55 is the best possible delivery system for a rogue state. Unlike a ballistic missile, it is hard to detect when it is launched. With a converted civilian plane, the Iranians could attack Israel from over the Mediterranean or launch a missile from the middle of the Atlantic to hit the United States. The Iranians have secretly acquired the know-how and basic ingredients from a Pakistani network smuggling nuclear material. The Kh-55 can be fitted with a Pakistani-style warhead, but it will have a relatively low yield of only 10 kilotons or less. The precision of the Kh-55 more than compensates for this shortfall, however. With Iranian President Mohammad Khatami threatening Israel and the United States with "a burning hell," it is clear that the Kh-55 deal is the worst case of post-Soviet proliferation so far.
1. North Korean Bomb Prior to the Bratislava Summit
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In the run-up to the Bratislava meeting between Vladimir Putin and George Bush, I would describe Russia-US relations as normal.
We do not view each other as enemies, but our cooperation is far below what the US and Russia could and should achieve. In point of fact, bilateral relations are in an alarming stagnation. There is no crisis yet, but we approached a crisis point during the presidential election in Ukraine. Russia and the US also stood on the verge of a crisis when the Americans launched the operation in Iraq and before that, when they wanted to raise the issue in the UN Security Council and threatened to punish everyone who vetoed their resolution. But stagnation is a dangerous situation, which leads to backward movement, deterioration in cooperation, and growing contradictions.
There are many unsolved problems in Russia-US relations, which are not discussed in enough details, as the two sides limit themselves to shallow communiques, statements and agreements. The great powers have not signed a single serious treaty for years. This is generally the current US administration's fault, because it disregards international treaties as such. But this leads to the rejection of international relations, because international treaties, which formalize the common interests of states, have been the fabric of international relations since Hugo Grotius (1583-1645).
The Americans may not want to cooperate using treaties, but Russia must do its best to talk them out of this delusion. However, Russian policy in this respect is notable for a lack of initiative and coordination. The Defense Ministry, the Russian Security Council, the Foreign Ministry, and foreign trade organizations act as they want, without a common plan.
I do not want to view the forthcoming meeting in Bratislava as a soccer match, but Russians have a trick or two for the Americans. The Americans will criticize Russia's domestic policy, largely correctly, and demand support for US policy in Iraq and Iran. Moscow should support some of American actions, but firmly formulate its position, which is mostly substantiated and coincides with that of Western Europe. But there are some things for which Washington should be criticized.
Have nuclear arsenals disappeared from the face of the Earth? Did we not agree to cut strategic offensive weapons in 2002, and decide to formalize the agreement in a treaty? But we did not do anything to sign it, just as we have not done anything to formalize a common position on missile defense systems. The initiative on the creation of new nuclear weapons comes from the US, which regards them as ordinary weapons with an increased explosive force. This is an extremely dangerous trend.
What can we expect from non-nuclear states when the great nuclear powers do not do anything serious to reduce their nuclear arsenals but continue to rely on nuclear deterrence, a first nuclear strike doctrine, and the modernization of their nuclear arms? They look at the US and Russia and decide that they should acquire such weapons too, especially in view of Iraq's experience. The US attacked that country and overthrew its regime. It does not matter whether the regime was bad or good; the operation was undertaken contrary to law and without a UN Security Council sanction.
North Korea has announced that it has nuclear deterrence forces. Is it a bluff? This is for specialists to decide, but the Americans immediately withdrew their direct threats to North Korea and launched six-party talks to convince it to abandon its nuclear program. What kind of example does this give to other countries? Create your own nuclear weapons or at least say that you have it - and other states will talk with you, not attack you. North Korea has announcedits withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the six-party talks on the termination of its nuclear programs. Moreover, it has announced that it has nuclear weapons.
Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush will most certainly discuss the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in general and in detail. In my opinion, they will talk about Iran's nuclear programs. The US is piling pressure on Iran because of its nuclear programs and its stance on Iraq. Washington is worried that Iran supports Hezbollah. But international terrorism does not consist of isolated organizations that are like islands, far and wide. International terrorism includes both Hamas and al-Qaida.
Seeing that Russia trusts Iran's statement about the peaceful nature of its nuclear power engineering and that the US mistrusts it, Europe decided to act as the arbiter, which is positive. The European leaders - Germany, France and Britain - pledged to settle the problem of the Iranian nuclear program by encouraging it to sign a package of agreements that would go beyond power engineering and include diplomatic aspects, Iran's accession to the World Trade Organization, investment, and the advance of European companies to the Iranian market.
All of this is offered to Iran as compensation for the pledge to abandon the dual-purpose aspects to its nuclear programs, even though they are permitted by the NPT. Russia guarantees the delivery of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power station and subsequent removal of spent fuel. This Russian stand complements the European position. Since Europe is the closest ally of the US, we can presume that it can probably influence US policy.
On the whole, the Bratislava meeting should not prod Russia-US relations forward but stop them from sliding to a critical point. Too many contradictions have accumulated in our relations. In the past few years, and in particular in the last year and few months, nearly every international problem has become the subject of serious disagreement between Moscow and Washington, beginning with Iraq and ending with Ukraine. The presidents should certainly clarify where their countries stand, pinpoint major differences and decide how these differences can be settled.
1. Protocol on Nuclear Waste Return from Iran to Russia to Be Signed on February 26
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Russia and Iran will sign a protocol on the return of nuclear waste to Russia on February 26.
Alexander Rumyantsev and Gholamreza Aghazadeh, heads of Rosatom and Iran's Atomic Energy Organization respectively, will sign, in Tehran, protocol for international agreement on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr to settle issues of nuclear waste return to Russia, Rosatom's press service told RIA Novosti.
Also, the parties will sign an addendum to the Bushehr nuclear supply contract that the Russian TVEL corporation made with representatives of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization about two years ago. The addendum is also related to nuclear waste return to Russia, a press service source said.
The press service pointed out that Russia did not provide Iran with nuclear fuel before the documents on nuclear waste return were signed.
"After signing the documents Russia will start supplying the Bushehr plant in order to load the reactor," the spokesperson said. "Within a month or two after the documents are signed, the fuel can be delivered to the nuclear power plant," he added.
The press service representative did not elaborate on the exact time frame of delivery, saying "this is the suppliers business".
2. Russia to Help Iran Develop Peaceful Nuclear Energy
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Russia intends to continue assisting Iran in the development of peaceful nuclear energetics on the basis of the unswerving observance of the existing international norms and obligations, Igor Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, said on Thursday at the meeting with Hasan Rowhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran.
ï¿½As regards Iranï¿½s nuclear programme, it is important that Iran should continue a constructive dialogue with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Tehran should ratify as soon as possible the additional protocol to the agreement on safeguards with the IAEAï¿½, it is believed in the Russian Security Council.
Ivanov also expressed support for the implementation of the arrangements between Iran and the EU ï¿½troikaï¿½ (Britain, France, and Germany) on Iranï¿½s nuclear programme.
Ivanov and Rowhani ï¿½have also discussed questions of Russo-Iranian cooperation and a number of topical international problemsï¿½, Tass was told by the press service of the Russian Security Council.
ï¿½Special attention was given to interaction of Russia and Iran in the security areaï¿½, the Security Council stressed. Ivanov land Rowhani ï¿½came out for stepped up efforts to oppose terrorism and the drug threatï¿½.
Rowhani arrived in Moscow on Thursday for two days at Ivanovï¿½s invitation. During the talks it is planned to discuss ï¿½topical questions of Russo-Iranian relations and international security problemsï¿½.
Russia is now completing the construction of a nuclear power plant at Bushehr, Iran. The plant is to go into operation in a year. Alexander Rumyantsev, the head of the Russian Federal Nuclear Energy Agency, will go to Tehran in late February to sign the document on the return to Russia of spent fuel from Bushehr. Numerous inspections by the IAEA have shown that Russia assists Iran in creating peaceful nuclear energetics only, but some Western countries continue to express annoyance with this work.
No evidence of Iran secretly creating nuclear weapons has been found over the past six months, IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei told a number of US newspapers on Wednesday. He described the policy of the While House regarding Iran as inconsistent, while lauding France, Britain and Germany that made it possible to achieve the full stoppage of uranium enrichment by Iran.
US President George Bush said a month ago that he regarded the Iranian programme as a source of threat and did not rule out military operations against Iran.
4. Iran Says Explosion in Bushehr Was Caused by Dam-Building Work
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A senior Iranian government official said the explosion in the southern province of Bushehr had been made during dam-building operations.
According to the results of the investigation and information provided by the Bushehr governor, ï¿½The explosion that occurred in the Dailam region was the result of detonating a path for dam-building operations,ï¿½ a member of Iranï¿½s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Agha Mohammadi, said.
Iranian sources said that the Arab-language television channel Al Alam had not released any reports on a missile attack in the province.
Earlier, Al Alam quoted witnesses as saying that the missile hit the ground and exploded about 20 kilometres from Dailam. It also claimed that Iranï¿½s air defence systems had fired at the plane.
But an official in the Dailam mayorï¿½s office denied reports about a missile attack.
MehrNews quoted him as saying that no one in Dailam had heard the noise of a plane. He made an assumption that it might have been an explosion at an oil plant near the city.
A representative of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps also denied these assertions. He said Al Alamï¿½s report about an explosion was wrong.
The military official said no missile had been fired at the city, and no plane fuel tank had fallen off. ï¿½We deny that,ï¿½ he said.
An official in the Iranian Interior Ministry told journalists that ï¿½there was no hostile attackï¿½. In his view, this might have been ï¿½an incidentï¿½ not connected with an aggressive foreign action.
A Russian diplomat in Tehran said the explosion in Bushehr had nothing to do with the nuclear power plant that is under construction there. In his words, everything is calm at the construction site, and no incidents have occurred.
Russian specialists who are building the nuclear power plant and the plant itself have not been affected by an explosion in this province.
ï¿½Ten minutes ago we telephoned Bushehr, and all 1,500 of our specialists are safe and sound, and the construction is going by schedule,ï¿½ an official at the personnel department of Atomstroiexport, the project general contractor, told Itar-Tass.
He said the construction site and the residential complex were located about 100 kilometres from the scene of the explosion.
ï¿½Increased security is a permanent feature in the area of the construction,ï¿½ the official said, adding, ï¿½The explosion will not affect the upcoming visit to Iran by the head of the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev.ï¿½
Rumyantsevï¿½s trip to Iran was scheduled for February 25-27. He will visit the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, as well as will meet with Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, who is also the head of the national Nuclear Energy Organization, Federal Agency for Atomic Agency spokesman Nikolai Shingarev told Itar-Tass.
ï¿½An additional protocol on the return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia is expected to be signed in Tehran as well,ï¿½ the spokesman added.
Menacing anti-aircraft batteries and off-limit signs attest to Bushehr's importance as a pillar of Iran's ambitious nuclear plans. But while nearly completed, it's still unclear when the power plant will go on line, and how much of a potential threat it will be when it does.
Iran denies it is interested in making nuclear weapons. Still, experts say the $800-million plant could produce enough plutonium to make 30 rudimentary atomic bombs a year.
Located near a seaside town of the same name on the Persian Gulf, the Bushehr facility and the surrounding plants, laboratories and living quarters of the Russians who helped build it are restricted to outsiders. Visitors given rare government permission to visit describe it as a mini-city, with tree-lined street separating blocks of buildings.
Mindful of the Israeli attack that destroyed Iraq (news - web sites)'s Osirak plant 24 years ago, members of the Iranian armed forces man anti-aircraft guns set up around the Bushehr plant, which will produce 1,000 megawatts of power once it goes on line.
But when that will happen remains unclear because of a prolonged Russian-Iranian dispute. Moscow has agreed to provide the fuel but wants it back once it's used to prevent the possibility Tehran may extract plutonium from the spent fuel.
Tehran has agreed to repatriate the fuel, but the two sides have disagreed on who should pay for its return.
In the last year, both Moscow and Tehran have said a deal was close, and on Wednesday, Russian officials said that Moscow nuclear chief Alexander Rumyantsev will visit Iran later this month to sign the fuel return agreement.
First shipments of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr plant could be delivered within a month or two after the signing, Rumyantsev spokesman Nikolai Shingarov told The Associated Press.
Diplomats in Vienna familiar with the Bushehr developments were skeptical, however, that the deal would be signed any time soon, suggesting the Russians were reluctant to do so unless concerns about Iran's nuclear plans were banished.
"They've said they were close to a deal many times before, and nothing's happened," said one of the diplomats, who is close to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency ï¿½ the U.N. agency monitoring Iran's nuclear activities.
The main concern about Iran remains uranium enrichment ï¿½ Tehran developed an enrichment program over nearly two decades of clandestine activity revealed only in 2002. It has suspended the program ï¿½ which can produce nuclear weapons grade uranium ï¿½ pending talks with European powers but is refusing pressure to agree to a long-term freeze or to scrap its enrichment plans.
Russia's insistence on having the spent fuel from Bushehr repatriated is meant to banish concerns that it could serve as the origin of plutonium, the other fissile material that can be the core of nuclear arms.
But ï¿½ although the IAEA is policing Bushehr with remote cameras and other controls, even before it goes on line ï¿½ the agreement to return all used fuel to Russia is no guarantee that nothing can go wrong.
Before repatriation, the fuel has to be stored in Iran anywhere from six months to a year, to allow it to cool.
"That's plenty of time to extract plutonium if they choose to ignore the IAEA," said another Vienna-based diplomat familiar with Bushehr.
6. Unique Nuclear Power Plant Construction in Iran
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Fifteen hundred Russian experts are packing their bags to leave for Bushehr (the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf) and join their compatriots, about two thousand, in the work to construct a nuclear power plant, the first one in the Islamic Republic. Owing to the project, two thousand new working places for Iranians were created. The final stage of the construction demands workforce.
All the assemblage work is scheduled to be finished this year. The reactor has been installed, basic equipment assembled back in 2002. The assembling of systems is under way. "This March we are to finish assembling the systems in charge of putting the unit into operation. These are fire extinguishing, electric power supply, deionized water and refrigeration supply systems and others," Alexander Afrov, Vice President of the Atomstroiexport Company and Director of the department in charge of building the Bushehr power plant, said.
The Bushehr plant is situated on a small peninsula, jutting out into the Persian Gulf. Proximity to water is one of the terms of the project. The use of sea water requires special equipment, most part of which was delivered by the German Siemens company, a pioneer in the project. When the Islamic revolution broke out in Iran in 1979, the Germans quit the construction. More than twenty years later Russian experts took over the project. It was not put out to tender, because nobody could be tempted by the abandoned project, eroded by heat and wind.
The peculiarity of the work was to take up the construction where German experts had left off. It took several years for Russian and Iranian engineers to appraise the state of the project. As a result, out of 35,000 units of German equipment 30,000 were rejected. Moreover, the experts had to combine the remaining equipment with new components and solve the problem of discrepancy in layout and size. Rejected equipment was dismantled andreplaced. For example, the engineers have recently replaced the equipment of a pumping station, which supplies water to chill down the condenser of a turbine, and part of a distilling installation, because the metal was worn out. The engineers are waiting for the delivery of new equipment, made of titanium and plastic able to stand the exposure to seawater, says Mr. Afrov.
"The Iranian administration understands that our difficulties are objective in essence and result from the peculiarity of the project.," the official points out. "We comply with the schedule and terms of the contract. All the criticism in mass media, both Iranian and Russian, moreover, accusations of deliberate protraction of work are biased, I believe," Mr. Afrov remarked.
Russian experts are seeking to fulfil their obligations in compliance with the timeframe fixed in the contract and thus secure new contracts in Iran, which intends to develop the nuclear energy sector.
The 1,000-megawatt water-cooled power-generating unit being constructed in Bushehr meets international standards in terms of safety and performance, which has been confirmed by the IAEA examination.
Russia has held telephone talks with North Korea in an effort to convince the country to resume international talks over its nuclear ambitions.
North Korea withdrew from the six-nation talks last week, announcing it had already developed nuclear weapons.
The telephone talks, between Russia's Foreign Minister and his North Korean counterpart, were initiated by Pyongyang, and have come amid intensified efforts to persuade North Korea to return to the negotiating table.
Russia's Foreign Ministry says both ministers are in favour of resuming international talks and agreed to continue consulting over the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula.
Russia has pledged to use its historic and economic links with the isolated regime to help ease these latest international tensions.
A senior Russian diplomat on Tuesday urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to resume the six-nation talks over the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula as soon as possible.
"We hope that the six-party process will be resumed in the near future, and the fourth round of the six-party talks will be held soon," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev was cited by Interfax news agency as saying.
Russia "stands firmly and consistently against the presence of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and for the full denuclearization of the region," said Alexeyev while addressing a reception marking the DPRK leader Kim Jong Il's birthday at the DPRK Embassy.
Alexeyev reiterated Russia's "clear and sincere" position over the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula that Russia favors a stable economic development in the region and development of inter-Korean relations.
Pyongyang announced last Thursday that it was indefinitely suspending its participation in the six-party talks aimed at defusing the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula.
Other participants in the talks -- the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China-- have since then called on DPRK to return to negotiations.
Russia is interested in "the calm and steady socioeconomic development of the regions bordering on Russia," said Alexeyev.
Claiming that Moscow and Pyongyang enjoy "good and trusting relations," Alexeyev vowed that "we are doing all we can to develop economic cooperation."
1. Russia Ready to Cooperate With Ukraine in Nuclear Fuel Production
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Russia is ready to cooperate with Ukraine in the production of fuel for nuclear power stations, Rosatom (Federal Atomic Energy Agency) public relations chief Nikolai Shingarev told RIA Novosti. He was commenting on the statement of Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov.
At a briefing in Kiev on Thursday, Mr.Plachkov said that Ukraine was studying the possibility of increasing the production of fuel for its nuclear power plants with the participation of Russia and Kazakhstan. His ministry is working to have in store a 90-day strategic reserve of energy resources, including much of nuclear fuel. It targets avoidance of negative effects in case of sharp rises in prices on energy resources, he said.
"For storing up an energy reserve in Ukraine Russia should provide it with more nuclear fuel", Mr.Shingarev told RIA Novosti.
"It is above all Russian fuel because almost 100 percent of the nuclear fuel arriving to Ukraine is Russian. Russia is ready to cooperate in this sphere with Ukraine", Mr.Shingarev said.
At the Kiev briefing Mr.Plachkov also noted that in the future reliable energy supply for all categories of the population will be ensured by the diversification of energy resources, as well as a sizeable increase in the production of own energy.
2. Tianwan Nuclear Plant's 1st Reactor Ready for Launch - Official
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Head of Russia's federal agency for nuclear energy Alexander Rumyantsev said the first reactor at the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China, built with Russia's assistance, is ready for physical launch.
The physical launch of the reactor may begin any moment, once China's state nuclear watchdog gives permission, he said.
The nuclear fuel produced by Russian companies was delivered to China last year.
Under the intergovernmental agreement between the two states, Russian nuclear physicists, together with Chinese specialists, are building another VVER-1000 reactor at the Tianwan plant, Rumyantsev said.
China is displaying interest in expanding and continuing cooperation with Russia in implementing its nuclear energy program.
Rosatom will participate in the international tender to build more nuclear reactors for China, according to Rumyantsev. In his view, given the available experience in successful construction of the first reactor, Russian companies have good chances to win the upcoming tender.
3. Russia and Romania to Implement Joint Projects in Energy Sphere
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Russia and Romania will implement a series of joint projects in the energy sphere, announced Romanian President Traian Basescu at a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday.
He pointed out that this issue had been discussed during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Basescu told the reporters that the Russian side proposed cooperation in the launch of the second power-generation unit at a Romanian nuclear power plant in accordance with current international standards.
"The nuclear power plant is operational, the first nuclear reactor is currently in the development stage," the Romanian president explained.
Another joint project will be the modernization of a large-capacity thermal power plant in Romania, Mr. Basescu announced.
"This thermal power plant was built in the 1960s with the use of contemporary Soviet technology," he added.
According to Mr. Basescu, in the framework of his visit, Romgaz and Gazprom outlined the details of a project that envisions the expansion of a gas pipeline in Romania.
Another joint project, the Romanian president stated, would be the joint construction of an underground storage facility for natural resources.
"In addition, we agreed to solve the issue of licensing weapons deliveries in the near future," Mr. Basescu announced. "There are ample opportunities for cooperation and arms sales, as well."
4. Russia Can Build Romanian Reactor, Vouches Company
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Russia has sufficient industrial resources and know-how to build power units for a Romanian nuclear plant, says Atomstroiexport Co. Its PR addressed Novosti to comment recently circulated news of Russia offering partnership to Romania to start Unit Two and build units Three and Four at the Romanian-based Cernavoda plant-all that up to the highest world standards.
"We have not yet gone into Romanian project details, but we certainly have sufficient experience finishing construction of a reactor which initially followed overseas blueprints. In particular, the company is applying final touches to a German-built reactor in Iran," said an Atomstroiexport spokesman.
Novosti contacted another informant, at the Rosatom, or Federal Nuclear Energy Agency. He said the agency had not yet regarded prospects for Russia to engage in the Romanian project.
Cernavoda units One and Two were designed on a Canadian heavy water reactor technology. Now, Russia can come up with its own power unit blueprints.
"Whatever nuclear exports presuppose a wide range of high-tech production on a lucrative arrangement," said the Atomstroiexport expert.
The Atomstroiexport, a closed-end joint-stock company, appeared in 1998 through a merger of the Atomenergoexport and the Zarubezhatomenergostroi. At present, it is working on contracts to build two power units, each for 1,000 megawatt-one in a Chinese-based nuclear plant, the other in Iran's Bushehr.
Russia and Norway are to implement six joint projects within the year at a radioactive waste depot in the Andreyev Bay, Murmansk Region in Russia's northwest, a regional administration spokesman said to Novosti.
The projects, at a lump Kr4.2 million, envisage a production infrastructure in the depot. There are another three Russian-Norwegian projects, also scheduled for the year. They concern disposal of 31 radioisotope thermoelectric generators-basic power units for navigation beacons. Ecologically clean solar batteries will replace such generators in thirty lighthouses along the Barents Sea coast, to a summary Kr18.8 million. 55 generators were removed from the Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions within the preceding four years on Russian contracts with Finnmark county in Norway's north, added our informant.
1. Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov Speaks by Telephone to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea Ban Ki-moon
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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On February 16, a telephone conversation between Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea Ban Ki-moon took place at the Korean side's initiative. In the course of the conversation the situation that has evolved following the DPRK's statement that it indefinitely suspends its participation in the six-party negotiations on the nuclear problem and intends to build up its nuclear arsenal was discussed.
The sides spoke for resuming the six-party negotiating process as soon as possible. Unanimous opinion was expressed about the necessity of ensuring the nuclear-free status of the Korean Peninsula and of working out compromise approaches in the course of the six-party negotiations with due consideration for the interests of all the parties. The ministers agreed to continue consultations over the situation around the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula.
2. Alexander Yakovenko, Spokesman, Answers a Question Regarding UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Statement About "Irrepressible Increase" of Countries Possessing Nuclear Weapons
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Question: How could you comment on the recent statement of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that unless more drastic measures are taken to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the number of countries possessing them will begin to irrepressibly increase?
Answer: We are concerned by the possibility of the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) both on account of "threshold" states and by way of terrorists gaining access to them.
Our country will take an active part in the upcoming Review Conference in May of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). We consider it important that the conference should reaffirm the importance of this Treaty under today's conditions for the strengthening of the nonproliferation regime and discuss possible steps in case of withdrawal of countries from the NPT or violation by them of the provisions of this major international document.
Russia was one of the initiators of the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1540 on combating "black markets" of weapons of mass destruction, which creates weighty additional conditions for the strengthening of their nonproliferation regime. The chief one is the formation by states of effective national systems of export control and the adoption of legislation envisaging criminal liability for actions contrary to the aims of this resolution. The implementation of this document of the UN Security Council is picking up speed. The Counterproliferation Committee that has been set up is actively unfolding its work and is called upon to play a significant role in this sphere.
3. Oral Testimony of Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman before the Senate Armed Services Committee
Department of Energy
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Chairman Warner, Senator Levin and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Administrationï¿½s priorities for nuclear weapons and threat reduction programs, and DOEï¿½s environmental cleanup program. Before I start, I also want to thank all of the members for their strong support of our critical national security activities.
As the members of the committee know, the Energy Departmentï¿½s programs under the National Nuclear Security Administration support three fundamental national security missions:
Assuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, Reducing the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and Providing reliable and safe nuclear reactor propulsion systems for the U.S. Navy.
Let me now turn to nuclear non-proliferation and threat reduction programs. Acquisition of nuclear weapons by rogue states or terrorists is a grave threat to the United States. Our ability to counter this threat requires close coordination in threat reduction and nonproliferation efforts with the Departments of State and Defense.
Under programs such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which we established in May 2004, DOE works with more than 70 countries to secure dangerous nuclear and radioactive materials, halt the production of new fissile material, detect the illegal trafficking or diversion of nuclear material, and ultimately destroy surplus weapons-usable materials.
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